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Applying for phd program where you've already completed a BA/MA?


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Hi all :)

Just signed up here after months of lurking. I was just curious whether phd adcomms tend to look favorably/unfavorably/in any way differently at those applicants who graduated from their school's BA or MA programs? For reference, I'm currently in a BA/MA English program at NYU, and while it's not my absolute top choice for a phd program, I would say it's in top-5. Thoughts? Anyone have direct experience with this?

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It's generally not going to help you and it may hurt you.

The DGS at my alma mater (BA) said I should briefly mention in my SoP WHY I want to return to the department. I didn't get to work with most of the professors in my subfield since I decided on it so late. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Make sure it's a strong application! Good luck.

P.S. I did my MA elsewhere.

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You don't want all your degrees from the same institution. Otherwise, when you apply for jobs people will be asking whether it's *your* success...or the school's.

It is not at all unheard of for someone with a BA from a school with a tip-top PhD program in their subfield to return--but this usually involves at least one degree elsewhere, like in waparys' case.

Some departments have an absolute ban on admitting their own students, so you would want to find that out.

Edited by Sparky
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Some people do have success this way, but "academic incest" is generally a bad thing. It is a much better idea to get your degree elsewhere, unless you are bound to NYC or it is your only viable option. As Sparky pointed out, it doesn't look good on the job market.

Edited by asleepawake
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I'm in a PhD program at a school that has a BA/MA program. During the break in one class, a BA/MA student asked our professor this same question. The professor said it's actually not a good idea at all to have all your degrees from the same place, even if that place has a fantastic department and program for your subject. Going to the same place for all of your degrees means that you've essentially spent about a decade (probably more than that) of your life--and super formative years at that--cooking in the same theoretical, ideological soup, you know?

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This is sort of what I was anticipating hearing, and that's a really good point, pinkrobot. Luckily, I'm not heavily bound to NYC at all, really -- I'm actually very interested in several west coast programs that fit my area of interest (early 20th century American, with focus on gender and religion) better than NYU. Thanks for the advice, everyone! And if you all have any school suggestions for my area of interest, that would be awesome-- my list is sort of ill-formed right now.

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I actually had a vet student explain to me the other day that you can get all your degrees in a hard science from the same school, but it looks esp bad to have all your degrees in the humanities from the same school. The logic goes that people assume you only now have one "school of thought" and since the humanities are so subjective, it helps you have you multiple exposures. Her exact quote was, "The skeleton of a dog is the same no matter what your location is, but the metaphor of the dog's skeleton changes depending on who you're asking."

Don't ask how this conversation got started.

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I actually had a vet student explain to me the other day that you can get all your degrees in a hard science from the same school, but it looks esp bad to have all your degrees in the humanities from the same school. The logic goes that people assume you only now have one "school of thought" and since the humanities are so subjective, it helps you have you multiple exposures. Her exact quote was, "The skeleton of a dog is the same no matter what your location is, but the metaphor of the dog's skeleton changes depending on who you're asking."

Don't ask how this conversation got started.

That is a fantastic metaphor, hahaha. And makes perfect sense regarding why the whole "3 degrees from one place" thing would be a no-no.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is weighing heavily on my mind, as I'm applying to Michigan where I recently completed my BA. It's one of my top choices as it's one of the best fits for my interests and the only reason I'm daring to try is because I was a transfer student (I spent two years at a community college for financial reasons and clawed my way into Michigan by virtue of my grades). Since I was only at Michigan for two years, I certainly didn't have the opportunity to work with all the professors I wanted to, including many in my subfields. I was pretty explicit about this in my Personal Statement for Michigan.

However, as much as I want Michigan and know it to be an ideal fit, I'm paranoid about what it might do to my chances on the job market if I did also earn my PhD there.

Ugggh.

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